The Denver Broncos will enter free agency with two huge skill position holes. First, Denver’s passing attack is a complete wild card due to the devastating injury to the only established pass catcher in Emmanuel Sanders in combination with the unproven young roster behind him.
Second, Denver’s situation at cornerback needs to be addressed with the expected exit of cornerback Bradley Roby. Luckily, both of these issues could be solved in free agency, saving draft capital for other positions on the team.
3 Top Free Agents Denver Should Acquire
One of the biggest factors of free agency this year is Quarterback Case Keenum’s salary. The Broncos are likely going to have to spend about 10 million dollars on him due to stipulations in his contract. There is a chance that this could change in the future but this article will be working off of the assumption that Denver will be spending $10 million on Case Keenum in 2019. With Keenum’s $10 million included, the Broncos will have about 30 million dollars in cap space at the time of this writing. Meaning, the Broncos have plenty of money to make some big acquisitions.
Adam Humphries – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Between tight end and wide receiver, the only established pass catcher expected to play for the Denver Broncos in 2019 will be a 32-year-old in Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders is currently recovering from a devastating tear to his Achilles that could prove to be the end of him as he has been known historically. With the likelihood of Sanders’ ability to fully recover in doubt, the Broncos should look at adding another veteran pass-catcher to the group.
Adam Humphries of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a great fit for the Broncos as a veteran pass catcher that could stabilize the passing game going into the season. Humphries is currently ranked as the 32nd-best wide receiver in football according to Pro Football Focus, catching five touchdowns and 816 yards in 2018.
Humphries will be 26 at the start of the 2019 season. Going into his third year in the NFL, Humphries will be considered a young veteran with a long career still ahead of him. While Sanders is likely looking at the beginning of the end of his time in Denver, Humphries could solidify the position for five or more years. Of course, Humphries wouldn’t be expected to overtake Courtland Sutton as the long-term leading receiver. Rather, he’d likely be the leading receiver for only this year and then become the Broncos’ long-term second-string receiver after Sutton rounds into form. That being said, would it really be that bad if Humphries turned out to be the leading receiver in Denver for the next five years with Sutton as the second option?
As a final icing on the cake, Humphries has shown potential to be an electric returner sporadically throughout his career. If Denver were to get Humphries, they could find themselves to be set at returner for the next several years.
Humphries is expected to cost about 10.4 million per year according to Spotrac, which sounds expensive with Sanders’ expected 12.9 million dollar cap hit. However, after 2019, Sanders will be a UFA in 2020 and could re-sign at a lower price.
Jared Cook – Oakland Raiders
If the Broncos cannot have the long-term security that Humphries would offer, tight end Jared Cook, 31, would provide short term stability for the passing attack for a couple of years. Cook caught six touchdown passes and 896 yards in 2019 and was ranked at the ninth-best tight end according to Pro Football Focus.
Currently, Jake Butt and Jeff Heuerman (who is expected to be re-signed) make up the core of the tight end position. Butt and Heuerman are unproven over the long haul and each failed to finish last season due to injuries. Denver’s tight end position has been a weakness of the team for years and Cook would bring stability to a long-term issue while allowing the Broncos to search for a long term solution.
Additionally, the fact that Cook will be coming from the Oakland Raiders would give Denver a large advantage on game day. Cook could give the Broncos an inside look at their divisional rivals, putting them one step ahead. Denver nearly got swept by Oakland last year and will need all the help they can get.
Finally, at an expected price point of 7.1 million dollars per year, Denver would be satisfying the need for an established pass catcher for a few years for a fair price.
Bryce Callahan – Chicago Bears
Denver’s cornerback situation, once thought to be the best in the league, has fallen off a cliff since the exit of Aqib Talib. With the news that Bradley Roby is expected to find a new team this year, Denver is currently set to have a 30-year-old Chris Harris Jr. and a cast of young talent filling the cornerback room in 2019. Denver cannot go into 2019 with this group.
With the addition of Bryce Callahan, Denver would be adding the seventh-best cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. Callahan could create a secondary reminiscent of the Talib-Harris duo of yore. Also, at 27, Denver would be set at cornerback for several years.
Plus, Callahan played for Vic Fangio when he coached in Chicago as a defensive coordinator. There is a chance that Fangio could lure Callahan to Denver for a discount, considering the history between the two. As it stands, Spotrac expects Callahan to cost about seven million per year.
If Denver were to acquire Callahan and either Cook or Humphries, the team would be spending between 14 and 17 million dollars per year. Considering the existential issues in the passing game and at cornerback, this would be a fair price and could possibly bring the Broncos into contention for the division once again.